Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mystrey Place - 2 Mother of all trees - Great Banyan tree, Kolkata

Great Banyan tree, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah, Kolkata

With a Guinness Record to its credit, the 300-year-old Great Banyan is the only living witness to the history of Kolkata. The Great Banyan Tree located in Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah, near Kolkata, India, is the widest tree in the world in terms of the area of the canopy it covers. It is estimated to be about 200 to 250 years old and occupies an area of about 14,500 square meters (1.5 hectares).

With its large number of aerial roots, the Great Banyan Tree looks more like a forest than an individual tree. Nearly 300 years old, the tree was damaged by two great cyclones in 1884 and 1886, when its main trunk was broken,The tree now lives without its main trunk, which decayed and was removed in 1925. The circumference of the original trunk was 1.7 m and from the ground was 15.7 m. The present crown of the tree has a circumference of about 1 kilometre and the highest branch rises to about 25 m; it has at present 2880 aerial roots reaching down to the ground.

A couple of years ago, the garden authority had come under fire for allowing a film crew to shoot overnight near the Great Banyan Tree. They were also accused of allowing a wedding party to be held at a cafeteria near the tree. "This is perhaps the greatest of natural heritage we have in our country. Any callous attitude of the authority that may be detrimental to the tree and its surrounding must be dealt with sternly," said green crusader Subhas Datta.

The garden authority is now busy salvaging its lost glory. "There were only two living beings which were as old as the city of Kolkata. One was the giant turtle of the Alipore zoo, which died a few years ago after crossing 304 years. Now the only surviving witness of the city's history spanning over 300 years is the Great Banyan. So we are taking a up project where the Great Banyan will tell us the story of the city through light and sound," said Debnath.

The tree was first noticed in 1786, three years before the Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta (as it was known in the Raj era) came into existence. The Great Banyan Tree has captured the fancy of many artists across the world, who have both sketched and sculptured it. The government has released postage stamps on the tree. The Great Banyan also hold the distinction of being the emblem of the Botanical Survey of India.

Almost all visiting celebrities make sure that they catch a glimpse of the Great Banyan Tree and find themselves humbled by its sheer size. The great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa also visited the Great Banyan and compared it with his contemporary Indian film maestro Satyajit Ray to describe the latter's position in world cinema The Great Banyan used to evoke the interest of photographers of early days of world photography as it evokes the interest of today's lensmen. So the Great Banyan is perhaps the most photographed tree in the world. Interestingly, one would find hardly any difference if one compares the photographs taken in 1850s and those being taken today.

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